Saturday, July 11, 2015

Shady Hollow / Stepladder Loop Extended - 7/11/15

Shady Hollow Trail

Step Ladder Loop Trail

Old Deer Creek Road Remnants

Starting Out the Shady Hollow Trail
When the new Spring Mountains Visitor Center opened two months ago, several new trails in the lower elevations were debuted on their handout map. Two of those trails were the Shady Hollow Trail and the Step Ladder Loop. Both trails have existed for 10 and 3 years respectively but, since they are now "official," the AtBF decided to hike them and map them out. Hiking a combination of only these two trails would amount to around 4 miles so we added some of the Telephone Canyon hike, aka Tin Can Alley, for a total of 6 enjoyable miles.

Hiking the Shady Hollow Trail above Telephone Canyon Road
Nine hikers parked at the new large trailhead parking lot across from the Visitor Center. (Just turn right at the new roundabout.) There are pit toilets there! And, the trail begins at the far end of the lot.

AtBF Canyon with Angel Peak Bubble Dome

View Across Telephone Canyon
The initial "feeder" trail soon ends at another trail. Go left for the Step Ladder Loop and go right (as we did) for the Shady Hollow Trail. There is another fork after you skirt around the hill to the left. Take the left fork to stay on the Shady Hollow Trail. We took the right fork and ended up on the Telephone Canyon Road for a short distance. After turning left onto a trail, we junctioned again with the Shady Hollow Trail and continued up and above the Telephone Canyon Road. There were views of the newly explored AtBF Canyon with the Angel Peak bubble dome seen on the ridge above.

Hiking in Tin Can Alley
We passed the left turn onto the continuation of the Shady Hollow Trail and began our hike in Tin Can Alley. This is the normal trail we use for the point to point Telephone Canyon hike.

Old Tin Cans Found in Telephone Canyon
The dirt road was built in Telephone Canyon when they were installing the telephone lines for this area. Now, there are primitive campsites along the dirt road. Old rusted tin cans can be found in the canyon from the building days gone by. Bikers stick them on tree branches to use as trail signs.

Beginning the Tin Can Alley Switchbacks

Diane Enjoys a Branch
The biking trails are numerous but we stayed on the trail closest to the dirt road until the trail naturally started switchbacking up to the left. We gained elevation until we came to a skinny fork. Here, we turned back on ourselves on the other side of the fork. This was our high point turnaround spot and, soon after, we found a shady place for a snack break. The remainder of the hike would be in the sun so we wanted to enjoy the shade while we had it. Although the day was a little warmer, we had a very nice cool breeze.

Taking a Break in the Last of the Shade
After the break, we went through an area that was not far from the new Deer Creek Road. Some of the trail was eroding and "sliding" down the hill. We had to be sure footed to pass through this area.

Hummingbird Gulch in Background

View Toward the La Madre Mountain Range
Eventually, the small trail widened and it became obvious that we were on the Old Deer Creek Road that was in use before the highway above us. There was a section of trail that was quite wide and even had remaining remnants of asphalt as seen in a photo below. The views on the left side of the trail opened up and we saw the small knoll to which we were heading. The descent was a constant gradual slope. But the trail was good underfoot.

Narrow Trail Sliding Off the Hillside
We passed a trail junction that was regularly used by the club. It was always a treacherous descent  and, now, it has been blocked off with limbs. Yep. Too treacherous.

Asphalt of the Old Deer Creek Road
Next, we found another trail junction that appeared a lot more viable. This connecting trail can be seen on Google Earth as a switchbacked trail from Tin Can Alley.

A Trail Junction along the Old Deer Creek Road

Old Deer Creek Road before Step Ladder Junction
At one point, we took a left fork over a log and down a hill as we left the old road. This trail took us to the trail junction for Shady Hollow, and Step Ladder Loop. There, if you drop down the hill toward the new Deer Creek Road, you will be on the west side of the Step Ladder Loop. We turned to the left and stayed along the hill to the left. This is the east side of the loop. Shady Hollow Trail comes in immediately after this from the left as it runs around the north end of the small knoll. The east side of the Step Ladder Loop is clearly the more scenic side of the loop hike.

2004 Burned Area at Base of Mountain
We stopped to gaze at the terrain across from us. This is the burn area from a dump truck accident in 2004. The woman driving the truck on the new Deer Creek Road lost her brakes and chose to ram the truck into the hillside as opposed to driving off the embankment to her left. She survived but a fire was started from her leaking brake fluid.

Hiking the East Side of the Step Ladder Loop

Gradual Descent on the Step Ladder Loop
From here, it was a long beautiful descent with views of the new Visitor Center and escarpment beyond. The trail is in very good condition. At the bottom, it junctions with that feeder trail and we turned down to the right. This was a very nice low elevation hike. We were lucky that the weather was on the cool side of warm. This hike would not be recommended for a warmer day since our elevations averaged only around 7000 feet.

6 miles; 1300 feet elevation gain; 3.25 hours

Visitor Center and Escarpment as Seen from the Step Ladder Loop

View Back (North) on the Step Ladder Loop

Returning to the Large Trailhead Parking Area

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